Monday, December 15, 2008

Spicy Chaat.

Today, waiting out a traffic jam, I found myself reading a book in the back of my autorickshaw. I don't think that means I'm fully acclimated to Delhi and therefore oblivious to my surroundings, but I'm sure it means something. Mostly it means I need to practice my Hindi, because I was reading the first chapter of the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, and I still stumbled across many unknown vocabulary words.

I had to take several deep breaths today (thanks for the advice, Claire) and tell myself everything was OK, really, it was. Just because I was in the archive working two days after my arrival in London doesn't mean the same thing will or has to happen here. If I'm in the archive by next week, that will mean I'm very lucky. I know this is the way it works--I do have to get fifteen thousand pieces of paper signed by fifteen thousand different people, all of whom sit at desks next to each other, but for some reason can only communicate through signed pieces of paper. In nine months, I will probably have accomplished about as much as I accomplished in London in three months. Now, I just have to convince my dissertation committee of this basic truth. I hope they understand I'm NOT MAKING THIS UP.

This evening, my "facilitator" is coming over to the guest house to help me fill out foreign visitor registration forms. I hope this goes okay, I'm not sure my hosts think my registration with FRO is necessary, but it is. It's particularly important that I do everything by the book now, because I will need to extend my visa before I leave, and I don't want to have any mistakes in my paper work before that time. If all goes well tonight, the facilitator will go with me and another American (coincidentally, a former classmate from my AIIS Jaipur program) to the FRO so we can register our presence as foreigners in India. I was advised today to take a book because although it is a matter only 3-4 signatures, it takes all day. This will be particuarly true now, because of Mumbai.

Speaking of Mumbai. Although I am complete agreement with Arundhati Roy when she writes that Mumbai is not "India's 9/11," still, the city's name is said the same way. You can articulate a lot by slightly shrugging your shoulder and saying, "Well, you know. 9/11." The same communicative potential is here, only you say, "After Mumbai..." and wobble your head slightly more slowly than you would normally. Anyway, after Mumbai, I definitely won't be able to sweet talk my way into a cell phone without a certificate of residency.
Am I worried about being blown up? Well, yes, more than I am worried about being shot, unless Chachaji down the street drops that rifle when he falls asleep in the shade and accidentally wounds someone. In two days, I have stepped into the space hit by four of the bomb blasts in September 2008--I walked right through the two spots in GK1 on Sunday, and today, along with hundreds of other people, I crossed paths with two bomb sites in CP. This is the type of assault that worries me. This is much like Jaipur blasts, all seven of which occured in places I had stood not just once, but many times. So, yes, I do worry, not about those places, but where the new places will be, since nowhere seems to be hit twice (knock on wood? not sure).

I read an article today that said because of Mumbai (slow head wobble), American and European tourist numbers are down by 50%. I can't really verify that, but I can say that I only saw 5-6 white people at CP today. This is a place that should be swarming with foreign tourists, so I suspect the news report is right.

Other than this, I am settling in as well as can be expected. I've developed a sore throat and nasal drip from the INCREDIBLE pollution levels (I'll let you do your own Google search for details, but here's a summary) in just two days, and am thinkingly longingly of the relatively clean air of Jaipur. Delhi is about >this much< more intense than Jaipur, and I hope Catherine doesn't freak out when she visits. But hopefully she will find it all amusing. I was riding to GK1 yesterday, thinking, "Oh, Delhi, you're such a noisy city," when spontaneously, all horns around me sounded off just in case someone didn't realize it was time to move forward, and I had to laugh--how can you not be charmed by such a pointless gesture? Make as much noise as you can, especially when you can't even see whether the light has turned green or not, because why not? You have a horn, after all. Use it.

And now, I have two hours to work before my facilitator arrives. Well, work, and eat the spicy chaat my host, Vandanaji, handed me a few minutes ago. Today's snack is puffed rice sprinkled with green chili--hot, but crunchy.

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